Just Call Me Sarai

I am a bit surprised that over the years my close friends and family have not nicknamed me Sarai. I don’t know how many times over the years I have read or heard the story of Abram and Sarai, but reading it this morning I was struck by how Sarai-like I am.

breast-feeding-1831510_1280Sarai believed God when He made the promise of a son to her and Abram. I believe God too when I hear His words to me.

Sarai waited for God to fulfill that promise. I have been known to wait for God to fulfill something He told me. Not always a patient waiter, but I can wait (though there was that period of time in my life when I could not sing the song “In His Time”).

Sarai decided God must be waiting for her to act, so she did. She gave her servant Hagar to Abram to bear their son (which was culturally appropriate at the time). I too can gethourglass-2910951_1920 tired of waiting and take things into my own hands because I “know” it’s God’s plan (at least the promise was His plan – my execution of it, not so much!)

Sarai had her name changed by God from Sarai to Sarah. With the name change came a promise of blessing, pregnancy, and descendants beyond measure, some even Royalty. When I call myself a failure, a screw-up, a hopeless case God reminds me He calls me beloved, His daughter, a child of the King.

Sarah, despite taking a wrong turn and suffering some difficult situations during the waiting, saw God’s promise fulfilled when at the age of 90 she did bear a son, Isaac, to her hundred year old husband Abraham. I have seen some of God’s promises to me fulfilled in amazingly unexpected ways and unconventional ways. Some I am still waiting to see.

So for today, I renew my commitment to live like a princess, who knows her Dad is King and God. What He promises He will deliver, in His time and in His way.

 

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My Christmas Celebration

Emmanuel. God with us. That is usually the name of God I ponder most over the Christmas season. But this morning I woke with another one of my Savior’s name on my heart. Jehovah – Rapha, the God who heals.

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself, that I have missed church for three of the last four weeks due to this lingering bronchitis and sinusitis.  And now for Christmas Eve, candle-2874571_1920when we usually attend one service at our church and one with my sister and her family at their church, I am not going to any. And to top it all off, this may be the last Christmas we celebrate in the north.

Then the truth hit me. Emmanuel is still here with me, even as I cough, sneeze and sniffle.  And this God with me is also the One who is healing my body, and truly providing the breath in my lungs when they are hard to come by. I can worship and celebrate Him in my home, yet still join in the chorus of those around the world celebrating Jesus’ birth.

heart-2338154_1920Even better than that great truth is that Emmanuel is not only healing my body, but more importantly He has healed my soul and heart.  In fact, that’s the whole reason He came as a baby – so He could model how to live in communion with our Father, and show us what obedience means – giving up His very own sinless life on a cross to pay the penalty my sin deserved.  And He did that for you too!

Does it sound like I am crazy to say my God is with me and heals me even though He died?  Not at all, because death did not have victory over Jesus.  Instead, He rose from the dead and now His Spirit is alive and at work.

So here I sit with my hot tea, tissue box, blanket and Christmas music directing my heart and thanks Heavenward. How about you? What name of God are you pondering? If you want to know more about this inner healing Jehovah Rapha brings, or the companionship of Emmanuel just ask, I’d love to tell you more.

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas dear readers.

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What A Difference A Year Makes

Today has been a mostly ordinary day.  I helped Jerry get up.  I went to my part time job at the financial planners, and was able to confidently carry out my tasks with the knowledge I have gained there this year.  When my shift ended I attended a team meeting with my seeJesus Bethesda teammates in which we did some final planning for our upcoming fundraiser.  It is exciting to see the event and team come together.  Then I took a call from another seeJesus co-worker who shared a project that is just starting and asked if I would like to consider being involved with it.

As I pondered this request, as well as some other connections that came my way today I marveled at God’s goodness and grace.  You see, it was one year ago today, on this very rope-667319_1280date that Jerry and I got the first very clear information that life as we knew it was about to unravel.  We didn’t know the details, we didn’t know exactly how or when, but as the cliche says, the end was in sight.

To say November 2016 Started us on a tumultuous journey is an understatement.  But we’ve all been through our own kinds of floods, fires and trials.  You don’t need to hear the “down and dirty” from me.

What I do want you to hear is that our God is faithful!  Here we are at November 1, 2017 and we are growing in our new work and ministry roles, we have some exciting plans for our future, and we are stronger in our marriage than we’ve ever been.

Are we all the way through this rough spot?  Probably not – people tell us it will likely dance in and out of our lives for years to come.  But that’s ok – we are more snug in our cord of three, and that’s a knot I never want to undo!

Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.rope-970023_1280

When Will We Get It?

It happened again.  My heart is broken as I heard the latest news report on another child with disabilities who was abandoned by his Mom in some woods.  There is absolutely nothing about this tragedy that is right.  Even so, it’s an indication of how hard life with disability can be.

Two years ago there was a similar situation in Philadelphia.  The reflections I wrote then still apply and reposted below.  Church – these stories beg for us to act  – what is your response?

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I am sure that by now most of you have heard or read the story of the 21 year old non verbal young man with cerebral palsy who was abandoned by his mother for more than a week along Cobbs Creek Parkway in Philadelphia while she went to her visit her boyfriend.  This young man laid in the park for multiple days with only a blanket and a Bible.

hospice-1797305_1920The mother, who has been arrested and is currently hospitalized (reason unknown), has been berated by all who hear the story.  I have to agree that this is a horrendous situation.  I am grateful that this young man lived and is now being cared for by CHOP and other family members.  There really is no excuse for what the Mom did.  It is wrong to endanger her son’s life in this way.

Now don’t flog me; while I completely disagree with the actions of the Mom and cannot condone them on any level, I have some compassion for the woman and some understanding of what she may have been up against.

Caregiving is hard!  It’s constant and continual.  I know, I’ve been doing it full time about a year less than this Mom.  And gratefully the person I care for is verbal and independent with all but his personal care.  He also has attendant care that spells me off a few days a week.  Even so, caregiving is exhausting and relentless.

While some may say she should have sought services to help, we are all aware of how difficult it is to get services through the social service agencies and governmental avenues.  If there is funding available the wait can very long, and often appropriate caregiving support is difficult to locate.  Again, this does not excuse what this Mom did.  Honestly what this story tells me is that I am in the right line of work!

The answer to the challenges of life with disability and caregiving is NOT more money or better services (though they may help).  The answer is Jesus Christ and His family.  The only hope we have is the hope that is greater than anything in this world, and carries us into eternity because life on this earth is not all there is .  While we are still in this world though, the answer includes those of us who call ourselves the Church (not any individual location, building or gathering but rather those who claim Jesus as Lord of life and want to live for Him) taking seriously the call Christ gives us to care for one another, to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.

These stories reminds me that it’s time for the Church to step it up.  I wonder if these stories would have had a different ending if some people in the community who are Christians would have come along side these Moms and been there to encourage her, help care for her son and let her know there is a better way than abandonment? 

I don’t know that for sure – there are so many factors involved in every family and life.  But this story gives me a renewed sense of passion to go to work tomorrow and build the passion, capacity and burden within the Christian community to come alongside families affected by disability so this type of thing never ever happens again!

Who do you know in your community who cares for a family member with a disability?  

What can you do this week to share hope and joy to let them know they are not alone?

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A Practical Theology of Celebration

Some time ago I was part of a group discussion on feasting, fasting and faith based on Isaiah 58.  One of the statements made was that “we” (Christians associated with one particular faith tradition) really need a theology of celebration.  I have pondered that turn of phrase for some time.  The more I think about it, the more I think of one February day . . .

I spent the morning celebrating the life of Sammie, a young woman we met when she was just an adolescent and attended Family Retreat with her family.  She was full of energy, and had a zest for life that could not be defeated by her cerebral palsy.  Her enthusiasm (mixed with her moms advocacy) led her to become a cheerleader.  Sammie and Jerry enjoyed racing their wheelchairs with one another and anyone else brave enough to take them on!   I recall one night at the campfire.  Sammie knew that s’mores were always a part of the campfire and she grew tired of waiting for them.  She asked me when we were going to start roasting marshmallows.  I wished I knew the answer and encouraged her to ask the campfire emcee . Once he acknowledged her she became too shy to ask her question, so I spoke for her.  From that night on she earned the nickname of “Marshmallow Girl” with us and Jerry was always “Marshmallow Man” to her.  We didn’t see one another often after that year, but kept in touch by Facebook, always using the Marshmallow monikers.

rose-1273740_1280All too soon (from our perspective) God called Sammie home to Him.  Celebrating her life with her family and friends was a sweet time of sharing stories and comfort, ultimately remembering that Jesus is the giver of life; both here on this earth and eternally!

That same evening  happened to be Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine prom for adults with disabilities.  Talk about a celebration . . .  Jerry and I were part of 105 volunteers serving 87 guests along with many parents and caregivers.  Our role was to greet people.  We saw heels, tuxes, sparkling dresses, beautiful hair up do’s and everything else that goes into a prom.  Better than the styles though were the smiles that spread widely across each person’s face.  Riding in a limo, walking a red carpet, having “paparazzi” snapping photos, being served a meal, dancing like there was no tomorrow.  True joy and dancing-156041_1280happiness overflowing.

That day, my friends, is a practical theology of celebration that reflects the systematic theology of celebration:

Live life with the Joy of the Lord as our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15 NIV)

Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15 NIV)

All in one day,  Because God is good.

Enhanced Benefit?

In my part time work in a financial planer’s office I sometimes hear phone conversations between  one of our customer service reps and fund companies.  One of the questions that still catches my attention is when our rep asks the vendor if the particular product they are discussing has “an enhanced death benefit?”

I  shake my head and smile.  I don’t know how the vendor replies, but my answer every time wihtout fail is YES!  I have an enhanced death benefit – and it is called Heaven with Jesus!

Occasionally when someone has asked how I was doing I would reply something to the effect of, “It’s been a hard day, but it beats the alternative.”  One day it struck me how absolutely untrue that statement is for those who know Jesus Christ, so I no longer answer that way.   The absolute best day of my life on this earth cannot begin to compare what I will experience upon entering the pearly gates and meeting my Savior and Lord face to face (or more likely face to feet as I fall on my face before Him!)

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The reason I love and follow Jesus though, is not just because I have “an enhanced death benefit.”  I also have an enhanced life benefit.  Yes,  Jesus took my sin (and yours) upon Him when He died, so I was no responsible to pay that penalty.  By rising from the dead, and giving me His Holy Spirit as a seal on my heart and life, He made His life and power available to me each and every moment.

While the question my co worker asks a vendor strikes me funny, it is totally appropriate in the context of the office.  What is really the silly sad reality is how often I, who know better, do not fully embrace the enhanced life benefits at my disposal.

. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10b NASB

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If this post sounds like crazy talk to you, or has left you confused, please leave a comment.  I’d like to interact with you about this!

Postcards from the Journey

Six months ago Jerry and I felt a little like Abraham as we left a familiar comfortable land and began a journey toward a land we knew not of.  We did not know where we were headed, but we knew Who had called us out and promised to lead us.  Having been a follower of Jesus for more than 40 years, this level of faith and trust was unfamiliar to me, instilling both excitement and fear!

If you have not heard, we have both accepted positions with seeJesus in the Bethesda division.  Bethesda takes the excellent books, trainings and seminars that seeJesus has created and modifies them to disciple people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  I serve as administrator, assisting with development, marketing, editing, and training.

auroras-1203289_1280I am filled with gratitude and joy to enter this new land and begin to set up camp.  But, have we “arrived”?  I sure hope not.  Not because I am not delighted to be part of seeJesus, but because as distressing, challenging and painfully hard the journey has been to date it has been equally refreshing, clarifying, and amazing.

I never want to get so comfortable and set in serving Jesus that I miss trusting Him.  And I don’t want to lose sight of the lessons I’ve gathered along the way.

Take a look through some of the postcards I’ve gathered on this journey:

  • People – As tempting as it was to isolate, the truth is we needed people who would journey with us and point us to hope.  Those who just stopped by to hug or cry with us met such a deep need.  It is amazing how many people have walked a similar journey;  the stories others shared reminded us that our heartbreak, while painful. was not unique.   God continues in the redemption business.  As He had done with them He would do with us.hands-791371_1280
  • Intentional Accountability -Jerry and I knew we would each process this journey in different ways and at different times.  While we needed to keep our communication open I needed others with whom I could trust and bare my soul.  I chose eight ladies and asked them to join me in my journey as my “Soul Care Sisters”  They came from different backgrounds, churches, ages and places in my life.  Each one loves me, committed to pray for me and hold me accountable in a variety of ways.  They were not afraid to ask the hard questions.  I knew they had my back.
  • Intentional Fellowship – Along this journey we were bound to meet new people and engage in life together, but that did not mean we wanted to let go of the people who have meant so much to us from the last chapter of our lives.  We instituted “Third Sunday”,  a time when we opened our home to friends to drop in. Some came to chat, with others we colored, or played games.  There are always snacks to share.  Continuing precious relationships in new ways has been a balm for our souls.
  • God’s got this – in fact He always has.  Theologically I knew that and could expound on that truth.  Seeing others who have survived and thrived through change was an encouragement.  Living it out in my own life was a different story.  But God has met our needs through money He had us save, through friends who made work available to us, who shared gifts and food with us,  and those who gave us honest and necessary feedback.  Times I fretted did nothing to move life forward.  Times I learned to turn that fretting to trust in God took me deeper into learning His heart for me.
  • Embracing new experiences -Had we not obeyed God’s prompt to leave, we may have lived status quo for some time.  Exploring new opportunities has led to a deeper passion for writing, enhanced skills and amazing connections with writers across the country.  Through this season of change we have enjoyed meeting dozens of people from all walk of life through our Airbnb experience.  Beyond that Jerry ad I are exploring ideas we had only dreamed about before, and taking steps to make them real.
  • Life goes on. This transition much like other kinds of passing, includes grief.  Each time a memory marker arrives we’ll grieve, and sometimes wish for what was (because it was so very precious).    Yet we are developing new traditions and experiences that someday we may be called to leave as well.  Knowing pain and sorrow may be part of the future does not stop us from investing now.  Seasons change, life situations change, The way we handle the impact of that grief will change, because we too are being changed,